A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Relive the Magic of the WITS Back-to-School Luncheon!

Thank you so much to everyone that attended SAL’s Back-to-School Luncheon last week to support our Writers in the Schools program! As WITS parent Tammy Watson told us, “Each child, each voice that needs to be heard, is depending on someone to make that difference.” Last Tuesday, we came together to make a lasting difference in the lives of so many young people, raising over $122,000 to send talented WITS Writers back to school to inspire and engage thousands of K-12 students in our community this year.

If you weren’t able to join us and want to experience how WITS brings the power of creative expression to so many students, check out the incredible poetry that was read by WITS students and writers at the luncheon below:


Red Clay Boot Prints

Joseph Gilbert Gallegos III
Port Townsend High School, 11th Grade

WITS Writer: Gary Copeland Lilley

We are not big trucks and beer cans
We are not whiskey dreams and yee yee
We are not fake country serene
We are not Jason Aldean

We are gunshots on dark nights,
We are knives pulled in bar fights.
We are scarred knuckles, broken on loud mouths
Because we are not folks to bow down.

We don’t sing as we see boot prints burnt with gasoline,
When they tried to flee the scene,
The worst thing I have ever seen
And I am not keen on the ring of liquor
That could end your life with a flicker

We are moonshine deals gone wrong
We are trailer parks, and with meth in throngs
We are praying it don’t go off like a bomb
So sing our song
Not Dixie, not Alabama
The song the guard whistles as he locks your door in the slammer

We are not Jason Aldean,
We are boys with missing teeth
And boots on our feet
Used to walk through the creek

We are moonshine stills
Used to pay the bills
And shotguns with rock salt if you’re lucky
And buckshot if you’re not

We are red dirt boot prints,
reddened by the teeth of some kid
Who thought he could win
And ended up with a broken chin
Chin, jaw, cheek, ribs, so learn from this

We are not Jason Aldean
We are not serene
We are just boot prints
Fleeing from a scene


Nothing is Perfect

By Joelle Rudolf
Washington Middle School
6th Grade
WITS Writer: Arianne True

Every day you want more.
Every day you want righteousness.
No room for mistakes, no room for failure
This world would look perfect in your eyes,
But look deeper…

Deeper into the sparkling blue oceans and past the sunny skies
Deeper across the painted pink flowers and through the lush grass

You remember how darkness brings light and flowers bloom
only in the pouring rain
You’re reminded that mistakes bring learning which leads to success.
That land must be bare to be green
We must realize that nothing is perfect and everything has its

We must not linger on the thought of failure
because this will only bring sorrow
Embrace your mistakes, try your best, and every day will bring

No one is perfect though we all desire to be
Everyone has their own unique imperfections
that make them extraordinary

The Shapeshifting Poem

By Hao-Ran Hsu
3rd Grade, Laurelhurst Elementary
WITS Writer: Samar Abulhassan

A black mamba
plunges into
a heart of gold coal. 

A ruby red kangaroo
jumps into its heart
with its feet up,
watching the scores.

Vines soar through
a midnight flight
into a new ending
in the middle of a tsunami.

The future sleeps
when its soul
shuts down
in found time.

99 time zones
soar through
the fireworks booth.

dark joy
watches movies deep into
the roaming light. 


What to Do on Bad Days

Azura Mizan Tyabji
Seattle Youth Poet Laureate, 2018-19


your body is already forgiving you
your charred palms are becoming soft and strong enough to hold things again
you have a talent for melting like wax, and wandering for a form to take
on bad days
deadlines take the backseat and you reconstruct yourself with patience
the world
is ending, yes
but you have seen it end, and begin again in the morning hundreds of times


don’t mistake emptiness as a meal
practice finding comfort outside of surrender


you said the wrong thing and elegance drops and breaks into a thousand irreparable shards
it is a luxury you cannot afford but you’ve always been frugal, anyway
try not to be tempted by sharp things that hurt when you hold them


you have lost nothing and have nothing to lose
the best parts of yourself are still intact
they live in the gardens you tend, with ink an appreciation
for small gestures
you reap what you sow
So don’t mourn a past harvest
or phases after they have waned
they will come back around like an old friend eventually
do not worry, you are growing
and you are loved


motivation gathers dust in your chest and as subtle as it is, you are allergic to this
its loss isn’t dramatic enough to call drowning
or burning
or an earthquake
or any other catastrophe poets like you love to write about
it’s just lack of maintenance
so put some music on
and make a habit of cleaning.


as Octavia Butler said, write out of habit, not inspiration.
inspiration does not text back
it’s not the type to leave gas in your car
or pay back a debt
habit meanwhile is a stubborn lover, but you will come to appreciate her


full disclosure
more times than not
you are afraid of your art
talent is a reservoir always running low
that you are reluctant to to re-fill

so remind yourself gently “so what if i spill?”
be brave enough to flood a single page
write something messy, something awful
write something corny and stupid
write something you wouldn’t read in front of anyone ever
write away the thirst of fear, starting with what you have for yourself because that


pause often
stop on a highway overpass
and watch the road below: it is the vein of a creature greater than yourself
it breathes
and you are humbled
you exhale
and continue with purpose


become comfortable with silence
welcome your confessions through front door this time
they have missed being treated as guests and not intruders


you are frustrated with yourself because you are contradictory
but that just means you are strong enough
to be the home for many things.


time is a commodity we try to save, spend, keep
that we watch, waste, kill
many of us
are under the delusion we are letting ourselves expire
time i watch, waste, kill
buries me alive in that guilt of a thousands of small deaths
sometimes i feel like an intruder in the fast-paced destiny of my own success
so i block out a time in my schedule for forgiving myself for
spending three hours doing nothing but refreshing every feed available
binging a show when i could have been working
or just staring at the wall from my bed for an hour
because there is an infinite mausoleum of things I could have done, but
mourning killed-time
only spends more on grieving what can still be saved
build a portfolio of your failures and hug them close
whisper, slowly,
“i have all the time in the world.”


you will never expire.
this a poem, too, has no end.
it will keep going
just as you will.

The Car is the Crucial Chariot to Rural Culture
WITS Writer Gary Copeland Lilley

If you are twenty miles from a city, and a dance every
Friday night at Hillcrest Gardens, and you live a quarter-
mile from Sandy Cross crossroad and the same distance
in the other direction towards Joppa Baptist Church, and
Bill Jordan’s joint is five miles north of there, but the
Hillcrest run takes you down Low Ground Road, through
the thick piney-woods, and every now a pocket of houses
to the south, the swamp where the big bucks walk the
hunting season, the old folk say this is a haunted piece of
land on both sides of that short bridge barely big enough
for two vehicles side by side, a driveway that crosses
over the blackwater river, and around the curve from
there, in the cornfield stubble, in the gloam, the flock of
wild turkeys gleaning the grain left by the combine, the
low ground route has nine graveyards, the separate blacks
and whites, at night a heavy fog always rises over this road.

Posted in Writers in the SchoolsYouth Poet Laureate2018/19 Season